Ben Cohen, Wall Street Journal:
Apple has been picked apart for so many lessons that it could start its own business school, but what the case of Apple Pay shows is that patience is a competitive edge for companies that know how to wield it.
The percentage of iPhones with Apple Pay activated was 10% in 2016 and 20% in 2017, according to research from Loup Ventures, as most people seemed perfectly happy with their plastic cards and leather wallets. Adoption nearly doubled again in 2018. It hit 50% by 2020. Now it’s around 75% and inching closer to ubiquity. Of course, not every account that gets activated remains in active use.
The winner here has been, and still is, the contactless card, the tap-to-pay functionality that has garnered a 14% share of in-person payments — and as seen in the chart below, that percentage has been growing all through the pandemic. Throw in the physical, plastic cards themselves, and debit cards have snared 44% of transactions and credit cards have a 27% share, as measured by the second quarter of this year.
I spent the past few weeks leaving cards in my pocket and tapping my phone wherever I could. But there are still plenty of places where I couldn’t. Restaurants have been slow to embrace the technology required for Apple Pay. Gas stations have been reluctant to spend on upgrading their pumps. Walmart, which favors its own mobile payment option, remains the most notable holdout among retailers.
For what it is worth, I cannot think of a single terminal I have used in the past couple of years that has not supported tap-based payments. I have been paying for groceries by tapping my card for even longer than that. Every gas station I have visited permits me to pay by tap. Even though I know Apple Pay offers a higher level of security than a physical card, I cannot remember the last terminal I tapped with my phone; it is always easier to grab the right card from my wallet. I use Apple Pay frequently with online payments, though, so that is something.